The Sufi giants, Ustad Puranchand Wadali and Ustad Pyarelal Wadali, were known as the Wadali Brothers. They sang qawwalis and had been a staple in the Sufi music industry. Singing the famous hymns of Punjabi poets like Bulleh Shah and Baba Farid, the Wadali Brothers (Wadali Bhandu) stood for everything that was right in the old era of music in Punjab. Even though they achieved phenomenal success, it wasn’t a smooth ride for the artist ensemble. At one of their first major performances, they were not allowed to perform because their appearance did not pass minimum dress code standards.
Guru ki Wadali, their home
The name of their musical act comes from their village. Puranchand and Pyarelal’s family is from Guru ki Wadali, an area also known for the birth of Sri Guru Gobind Singh. Less than 10 miles from Amritsar, Guru ki Wadali is the place where Guru Arjun Dev started the 5 herat. It is because of the place known as Guru ki Wadali, they are called Wadali Brothers. Perhaps that is why it should be no wonder that this area is responsible for producing the Sufi magic of Puranchand and Pyarelal. Their father, Thakur Das Wadali, was a renowned vocalist; information on his life is hard to come by. Thakur insisted that the older brother learn music, even though he was interested and pursuing wrestling.
Early in their musical life, the Wadali brothers were scared to record albums of their Sufi renderings. Having been scared off by their Ustad, first they were told that ‘if they sing into the microphone, the machine would snatch their voice.’
Given their doubts, Puranchand and Pyarelal stuck to only live performances. United, the brothers have sang for All India Radio Jalandhar (debut 1970s), which has an interesting backstory. The brothers went to perform at the Harballabh Sangeet Sammelan, a well-regarded music festival across India. When they entered the revered music festival, the brothers were not allowed to sing because their appearance did not pass muster. Even in that instance, Puranchand Wadali and his brother went to Harballabh Temple to present their Sufi music as an offering. It was during their impromptu session at Harballabh Temple, that an executive from All India Radio Jalandhar heard them and immediately recorded the performance.
Success, Awards and Bollywood
The Wadali success was not deterred by the rejection at Harballabh Sangeet Sammelan or their conservative approach to recordings. The two brothers went on to have an illustrious Sufi Music career, after the incident at Harballabh Temple. Across their career, they released several notable albums including, Aa Mil Yaar, Ishq Musafir, Paigham-E-Ishq,Yaad Piya Ki and Folk Music of Panjab. Early on they were awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1992. But they would not gain national fame till later.
In 2003, Bollywood came calling for their soulful singing and they recorded their first Wadali Brothers song in the movie Pinjaar. As witnessed from the many live concerts still available on YouTube, their singing captured the hearts of many. In March 2018, the younger brother Pyarelal died of a cardiac arrest in Amritsar. Till Pyarelal’s death, the brothers had been singing and creating music together for 40 years. After the death of Pyarelal Wadali in 2019, the family’s commitment to music continues. The Brothers may never sing another new song, but their name and their performance style lives on. The ensemble make up is now Puran chand Wadali and his son.
An artist ensemble of one of the highest quality, Puranchand Wadali is the older brother in the Wadali Brothers. Listening to his father, he put aside wrestling and began learning music. He learned to sing from none other than the great Bade Ghulam Ali Khan. As you listen to Puranchand’s singing today, one can hear the taan and aakar style reflective of Patiala Gharana (or house). He has received a national award by the Government of India- the Padma Shri in 2005. His rendering with his brother of Dumma dum must qalandar is the best available, and it is uniquely enhanced by stories he recites within the song.
Lakhwander Wadali and Puranchand Wadali
The son of Puranchand, Lakhwinder first became popular after participating in the Indian reality show Junoon. He has, independent of his family, contributed to establishing his musical house on the international map. Though now he and his father sing together, he launched a solo performance career which is altogether a different style from the Wadali Brothers signature sound.
In their recent guest appearance on the Kapil Sharma show, the audience can see a very humorous side of the Wadali Bandhu. One of the best comedy sketches ever, Puranchand is on fire reciting hilarious tales from their lives. It is hard to share a stage with a comedy expert, but even this challenge is met masterfully by the sufi singers. Given the success of that video appearance, Puranchand will now make some jokes in their live shows. As the Punjabi music evolves, The Wadali sound will always stand for its purity and authenticity.